Dust to dust: Councils line up to offer sites for natural burials

Sunshine Coast Council is the latest of several local authorities that have recently bowed to public demand to provide sites for natural burials, a practice that aims to avoid the expense and environmental impact of traditional funerals.

Mar 11, 2021, updated Mar 11, 2021
Woombye Cemetery on the Sunshine Coast Photo: Eyes Wide Open Images

Woombye Cemetery on the Sunshine Coast Photo: Eyes Wide Open Images

The council has revealed it is investigating natural burial sites within existing cemeteries, saying there was a rising community need for more “eco-friendly” burial options.

Natural burials typically involve preparing the body without using embalming fluid or other chemicals and placing the remains in a biodegradable coffin or shroud before being laid to rest.

Native trees are usually planted at the site in place of traditional headstones and the gravesite is recorded for families and friends using GPS technology.

Councillor Winston Johnson said the council aimed to have natural burial available in the region by the end of the year.

“Planning includes identifying a suitable area within the current cemetery network which aligns with the natural burial ethos and includes space for a communal memorial,” he said.

“We are also liaising with local funeral directors, as they will play an integral role in ensuring the natural burial offering meets the community’s needs.

The council is seeking to ensure it recognises cultural needs and changing expectations to cater for the use of its 18 cemeteries.

Gold Coast City Council already reserves a site at one of its cemeteries for natural burials and Fraser Coast Regional Council is also looking at the idea.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected peoples’ attitudes toward interring loved ones.

Funeral home operator Invocare told investors last month that the restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus drove a “shift in consumer preference” for less costly funerals and a rise in direct cremations, where no funeral coccus at all.

“Simpler arrangements and an increase in direct cremations during the height of lockdowns drove a decline in professional service fees and demand for catered funeral services,” the company said after releasing its latest financial results.


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